Since I started writing for fellow Tour Junkies listeners I always eagerly await for this flagship event on the European Tour Circuit. This is the week I can give you the very best I can. Much like David and Pat with The Masters and Augusta National this is my home event and a venue that holds unreal significance in my golfing year.
It was here at Wentworth where I got to see my first tournament, where I found inspiration to turn professional, where I played my first tournament spec course and it's an event I try to attend every year and even when I haven't been able to go I religiously watch every shot.. To me this is the big one especially as there's still hope for me that one day I could qualify and compete at this glorious location with all the big boys on our tour as a PGA qualifier.
After last year and the silly amount of effort that went into creating the write up, finding our winner and plenty of other solid picks for decent greenscreens all round. I thought there is no way I could attend the practice days or the pro-am again, however this year I made a point of taking some extra time out, made the short journey across to Wentworth to take in everything I could, simply to give everyone as deep an insight as possible of what's on offer.
Of course it almost goes without saying that I'm so pleased I did, not only has it been an incredible couple of days so far and I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of the 12 hours each day spent here, but its also been incredibly valuable for this write up.. I have seen almost every square inch of the course, chatted with more players than ever before and consequently I believe I now have an even better understanding of what it will take for players to be successful and take home the PGA Championship title.
On the Range and Putting Green
I have spent countless hours observing players warm up, practice, work on there game and get prepped ready for Tomorrow. It was on the practice grounds where you really get a chance to see who looks ready to take on the challenge ahead and those that are hoping that it all clicks at the right time.
This year and just like every year there were plenty of players that impressed but haven't quite made my list of picks:
Jordan Smith, Eddie Pepperell, Mike Lorenzo Vera and of course Rory, Pieters and Noren, but who wouldn't be impressed watching them hit balls..
I absolutely loved walking the West Course, my legs may not agree after the miles covered but none the less its always a privilege to take in the delights of one of England's finest golf clubs.
Out here I got to see all the major and subtle changes, how the course was playing, a good idea how to attack the course, what players need to have in the locker in order to keep high numbers off the card, How players performed, What frame of mind they were in and if they were enjoying the lay out or not and more importantly if they were enjoying the way they were playing.
First and most important of all the greens are amazing.. A good putters delight and a poor one's worst dreams. One thing very noticeable was the firmness of them, I saw a lot of shots release to the back of the green, anything struck well from the fairway, loaded with spin did react as players would hope but with a much larger than usual first bounce.. One thing players may struggle a little more with is chipping and pitching.. I spent a good while watching Southgate and Detry make it look easy but I did see a good few both on and off the course almost looking confused as to how to pick the right landing spot to get it close..
The rough, it is extremely lush and sticky and noticeably longer than last year, any shots coming out of this will either do well to travel well to reach elevated greens and miss the greenside bunkering or have anywhere near enough spin to hold greens, especially those that sneakily run away from the players.
Bunkers looking. We saw a lot of fried eggs (plugged lies), even when shots weren't coming in from a great height last year. this year seems to be less of a problem and hopefully this year MR. Grace you don't go digging to china to excavate a free drop.
Player Performance. Its obviously a lot easier to see more shots on the range rather than the course and maybe why I will sway more towards what I saw there, however just like the range certain players again got noticed for their superb, good, bad and down right ugly golf.
Course Info - Its Wentworth West, one of the finest around. Steeped in History, Former Ryder Cup Venue and a true Gem. Measures 7,267 and a par of 72. As traditional as they come, tree lined and natural rolling landscape. original designed by Harry Colt, redesigned(ish) by Ernie Els and then put back to something more resembling its original design by McGinly and co.
Go for ball strikers this week, the key to playing this course well is so very simple. Hit your fairways and hit good approaches, you need to work the ball and be patient. Chances will come but shouldn't be forced, one year I followed Sir Nick Faldo as he put on a masterclass of golf whilst paired with Adam Scott and Darren Clarke.. Not much has changed other than the necessity to hit it much longer and higher than he did back then.
Players I wouldn't touch with a sh**ty stick
Danny Willett. got to see a bit of Danny on the course with Rory and even though he hit it much better than last year, I still cant think why I would dream of drafting him, I couldn't be less of a fan and although I could be missing something I'll be leaving this former Masters winner for others to play.
Edoardo Molinari, If you pick this player, you got the wrong Molinari. Although his last finish makes him a tempting play at his price, what I saw put me off that idea completely.
Thongchai Jaidee, Another potential bullet dodged, 1 missed cut in 15 attempts and only $6,600 in the draft.... sounds like a perfect go to player if stacking at the top.. Didn't hit it that great on the range, didn't hole much of any length on the putting green last couple of attempts have only just warranted a pay cheque and his form hasn't been good, that and high ownership at his price I'm staying well clear.
Paul Casey $10,800 - Having frustrating missed out on playing in The Players due to a back injury, Paul is back, fit and ready to keep on performing. Possibly the best ball striker in the field this week and probably gonna be low owned through fear of lack of practice or even worse a WD .. 99% of the time we can trust that Paul will be up there contending come Sunday and within a field that is extremely strong for European Tour standard it is much weaker than what he usually comes up against each week the other side of the pond, so I'm gonna ignore those fears, take a little gamble at the top end and take the saving compared to Rory's price. Only 1 missed cut from his 11 starts this year and within that a win at Valspar and 5 top 10's. Wentworth form is also very comparable with 12 starts, 5 placings within the top 12 and a win under his belt as well... Hasn't competed here in the last 4 years but with the alterations to the course bringing it back to something much closer to what he experienced with his win in 2009 and now the inclusion of a sub air system for the greens creating a super pure surface I think we could see Paul claim another victory and cement his place as 1 of the very best that Europe has to offer.
Tommy Fleetwood $10,700 - I don't think I really need to go into much detail about our Tours, long haired, loveable Liverpudlian. What i will say though is he has all the skills sets to play really well on this course even if his past record may suggest differently. For me I'm focusing more on what I saw during his practice round, that he's now coming into this event without the tag of Race to Dubai winner and a current world ranking of 12th. All of this suggest to me that his performance here will be more like and hopefully better than his 6th place finish in 2015.
$9,000 - $10,000
Branden Grace $9,900 - Hot off of an excellent performance and superb final round at last weeks Byron Nelson event, Branden continues to show why he is amongst the favourites to win and absolutely no reason why he cant contend once again here. With 5 appearances to date on the Wentworth West course he has managed to make the cut on all occasions, placed 11th in 2015 and place inside the top 10 twice, including a 9th place finish last year. Although I usually prefer players that hit the ball high into these greens I believe Branden can find his advantage by taking some of the breeze out of play and more importantly keep the ball in play off the tee and chase it down these firming fairways.
Francesco Molinari $9,800 - If your a strong believer in horses for courses then Fran is your man. 12 appearances so far in this event, runner up and arguably robbed last year of a win after Noren came from nowhere on the final day with a mind blowing 62 to take the spoils. In the last 6 outings here he has amazing been inside the top 10 on 5 occasions. Its almost as if this course was designed perfectly for him... Accuracy and ball striking being of paramount importance, excellent short game skills and an abundance of patience.
Ian Poulter $9,300 - Before the tournament week arrived I was already very keen on Poulter. Here we have a player hungry to win and hungry to play well at a course that hasn't exactly been the kindest to him in previous years.. With a little luck, I hope others competing for the DraftKings $'s this week pay a little more attention to his course form as opposed to his recent form (win at Houston, 44th Masters, 7th RBC and 11th at The Players). In theory this course should set up beautifully for him whilst playing well. Very similar to the demands required at his home club Woburn and after spending a while watching Poult's work with his coach Pete Cowen on the range I feel even more confident to get behind him this week.
$8,000 - $9,000
Matthew Fitzpatrick $9,000 - For some strange reason I thought Matt had a little more experience of this event than his 2 outings to date. However, after realising this it made me warm even more towards the idea of playing him. Usually experience really counts for a lot on this course, knowing the lines and clubs off the tee and where you can and cant miss it saves several shots. Last year things were really starting to click for Matt and his Caddie Jamie and demonstrated well with a more than respectable 12th.. I managed to catch up with them both early Tuesday morning and they certainly seemed more confident about their prospects. Jamie told me that the only thing they were hoping for was for the fairways to firm up a little more and for an extra 6 inches (on the stimp reading, before anyone suggest something differently). Although we do have a few showers forecast and maybe even a soaking from a thunderstorm or 2, I believe they may just get their wish. The weather here has been fantastic and over the last two days you could see areas staring to brown off a little and a little more run in the fairways and I'm sure after the players meeting they would of been keen to get the green speeds up a notch or two.
Tyrell Hatton $8,600 - Really like this play, ownership has to be down with his current form and there is no chance I'm gonna miss a chance to take him at this price on a course he absolutely adores. This is one of his favourite events and one of his favourite course. Feels very comfortable here but more importantly feels more at ease on the European Tour and you could really see that in him over the last couple of days. Top 10 here expected and maybe even a top 5.
Alexander Levy $8,300 - This is just a no brainer GPP play, little concerned what ownership could be like but if anyone is gonna take on the course and go birdie hunting you can be sure Alex will give it a very good go... After all making birdies and picking up those points is gonna be even more essential when the overall scoring from the playersis going to be relatively high this week.
$7,500 - $8,000
Alexander Bjork $8,000 - Its by far no secret that I like to take this player, especially on courses where patience and accuracy feature so much and so far that tactic has served me very well. Last year and in his first visit managed to place 14th and right now coming into this event display sensational form and a winners mentality after his last outing in the China Open. Once again I'm hoping for another great event and an improvement on last year, now his experience has enhanced so much in a short spell
Ross Fisher $7,900 - This is a very reliable source pick, and what I'm hearing is extremely enticing.. Striking the ball as good as he ever has and feeling like this could be a very big week.. Add this to decent form in this event. 3 top tens and a 9th place finish last year. Poor form the other side like Tyrell and hopefully lowered ownership. I will be playing Ross in a good number of line ups.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat $7,900 - Another player I got to see a bit of during practice and what I did see was to be expected considering his calibre and ability... What was very obvious was his control of the pace of the greens and how focused he seemed even during the practice round... My guess is he's got his eye on a new car and if he doesn't win the albatross (double eagle) car on 18 he needs enough cash to buy something more ridiculous than Tyrrells purple Lambo.
George Coetzee $7,600 - Another great driver of the golf ball and player with the talents to contend but at a very low price. 1 win and 5 top tens this year
$7,000 - $7,500
Matt Wallace $7,500 - Renowned for his straight hitting off the tee and gifted hands with the putter, Matt has the attributes and gutsy approach to throw in a low round here.. If he does that could be enough with 3 more steady round to see him placed well, if he has 2 of those rounds then why not venture into the big bucks and pick up a second win for the season. Best taken as a GPP play as his gutsy approach and all out approach could work against him at the wrong time. (Driver off the 1st is not the play)
Julian Suri $7,400 - Out early on the course on Tuesday morning I jumped at the chance to follow him for a few holes, made even better with a great conversation with his caddies father and a chance to get to know a little more about how their team are feeling and how the prep has been going... All was extremely positive and from what I saw out there I couldn't of been more impressed... His game seems to have come on very nicely and looking very sharp. Im sure a return to European soil will serve him well and no better way to kick off his return than a good result in this prestigious event.
Steven Brown $7,200 - One of Wentworth's Members and not just an established player that has decided to call this venue their home, Steven grew up playing golf here and used to be their Junior Captain, so arguably nobody (Sorry Big Easy) in the field will have a better feel and understanding of the course and how it plays. Having a fantastic 1st year full year on tour, in the money 8 of 12 events played, 1 top 10 that came in his last event (7th at the Sicillian Open) and 2 other events that have seen him placed inside the top 20.
Thomas Detry $7,100 - One of the players that I could easily be overweight on this week. I managed to catch up with Thomas early Tuesday morning whilst out practicing on his own and was so impressed with every single shot I got to see. His short game was silly good. There a video of a few tougher chip shots played on the 13th green I posted on twitter if you haven't seen it already.. I even passed a comment in his direction saying that your making it way to easy... loved the response... "That's because it is my friend". After seeing the course performance and confidence I had to see a little more so spent what time I could watching him flush shot after shot down the range. Once I returned home and checked is price was one of the first players to feature in my GPP line ups.
$7,000 or less
Erik Van Rooyen $7,000 - Pure madness to see a player with this skill set priced within this bracket. Whilst I was out watching McIlroy and Willet, Erik came across and joined up with this group for the last stretch of holes and to be honest I cant remember seeing him put a foot wrong out there. Off the tee he was long and straight and into greens his distance control was fantastic. Short game looked sharp as well as he attempted a few awkward chip shots around the green... Later that day I got another chance to see him on the range and this only impressed me even more... The tempo of his swing was mesmerising and the quality of strike was pure. Will be very interesting to see what his ownership is like whilst amongst a field with many more household names compared to previous events he has played.
Matteo Manassero $7,000 - Here we have a former winner making his 9th appearance, record to date 17th, 7th, 43rd, WIN, MC, 46th, MC, 30th. Been off my radar and many others for a long time but really starting to trend in the right direction and find the kind of game that showed so much promise of great things. Hasn't missed a cut since February and placed 20th in both of his last tournaments. Really disappointed I didn't get to see him on the range or on the course as I'd love to get fully behind this pick but all the tell tail signs are there and sometimes you just have to take a gamble here and there.
Matthew Southgate $6,900 - I got a chance to see a fair bit of Matt on Tuesday, both on the course and on the practice ground, I also got the opportunity to spend a bit of time with him and his coach (who just so happened to recently assess my own coaching abilities). If you managed to see my posts on Twitter its almost needless to say how impressed I was.. Not just with how he was playing but also by his general confidence. He seemed so very relaxed out there and having a lot of fun. Matt also comes into this event with a nice bit of form rolling on from last weeks Belgium Knockout and whilst we ere chatting there was even talk of how his start times suit him and set him up well for Saturdays round. If the wind picks up a little and swirls through the tree's like it was on Tuesday then my ownership of Matt will almost certainly increase. He is best known for his performances on links courses but with the way the course is playing (firm greens and necessity for accuracy ) I think this year more than ever before the conditions will suit his game.
Gregory Bourdy $6,700 - As I stated early experience on this course can be vital to performing well, this will be Gregory's 12th attempt here and out of the attempts to date (11) has made the cut on 7 occasions and 5 of those coming in the last 5 years. He has also placed well here before with a 12th in 2013 and 15th in 2016. Now form and experience isn't the only reason he has made the write up.. Whilst sitting by the practice putting green taking everything in I saw him rolling everything across the dance floor and into the hole like it was a simple as breathing. At this price I think id even be happy with seeing him play some weekend golf but if he takes that putting game into his early tournament round it really wouldn't surprise me to see his name inside the top 15 once again.
Richard Wallis $6,500 - Richard is a friend of mine and fellow PGA professional, based at Canterbury Golf Club in Kent., Admittedly he has made his way into the write up partly for personal interest and as he does feature in 1 of my line ups at least, he has to feature in my write up as well. Richard has way more than enough talent to turn heads on his day and impress. He cleans up on the PGA South Region and National events (hence the invite to tee it up this week with the big boys) and all be it, that in comparison, they are super weak fields he has had experience of playing at this level and deserves his opportunity to break through. The scores he posts certainly suggests that he is more than capable of going low and not being afraid to keep making birdies when the pressures on. Famously Richard held the world record for the lowest round recorded in a professional event (59 on a par 73 -14, if you don't believe me or just wanna find out a little more about this there a nice little write up about him and his amazing accomplishment on the PGA website) and has had a good number of rounds close to that score in other events including the Pro-Am at Mid Kent GC (My home course) this time last year. Now the golf courses he has posted these amazing scores aren't anywhere near as tough as the set up we have for the West course this week but if your looking for that super scrub pick, that will be super low owned in my opinion he could be worth a punt if your looking this low in the draft pricing.